AEDM day 14: painting with sand

So last night I went to my first experimental acrylic painting class. The teacher came in and announced today’s material would be sand. Then she had us each introduce ourselves and tell her what our expectations were for the class. Half the students admitted to never having used acrylics before. Then the teacher showed us techniques for using sand in acrylics, and suggested we sketch something out on our canvases before beginning. I panicked a little. I’m used to working from life or photos, but I’m pretty useless when left to my own imagination. I cursed myself for not bringing photos to work from.

As I started my painting, I remembered the street scene I had been sketching that afternoon, and decided I would try to work with that, or at least my memory of it. I started absentmindedly dropping the buildings into my scene. The teacher came by, took one glance at my work, and immediately dubbed me a remedial student in her mind. She tried to explain a little linear perspective to me (I was purposely distorting the perspective on my buildings, but granted it looked awful when she saw it, and clearly she was just trying to help…). I considered telling her that I knew perfectly well what linear perspective was, that my 7th grade art teacher had asked to keep my perspective drawings to use as examples of greatness for all students who came after me, but then I decided that such an announcement would only embarrass us both.

As I murmured in agreement with her suggestions, the student next to me saved me by admitting she had no idea what linear perspective was, so the teacher busied herself explaining while I got to plod on with my horrible painting in peace. I considered my options for the class at that point… basically I could continue to play the idiot, and then I wouldn’t feel any pressure to produce anything good. That would be nice, right? But still, my ego, the part of me that fancies myself a real artist, wasn’t too happy with that solution.

And then a strange thing happened. About halfway through the 3-hour class, my painting started to come together. It started looking somewhat decent. The teacher was obviously surprised when she came by to see it, amazed that her idiot student had lucked into something… artistic. And then towards the end of class I was moving in status from lucky to perhaps-actually-knows-what-she’s-doing. Other students started to take notice, and by the end of the evening I had a small semi-circle of people around me, gushing about how lovely my little painting was. I was a little proud but mostly embarrassed to be the impromptu center of attention. I just kept saying ‘danke‘ and smiling sheepishly as they went on about my sandy little city scene. Which doesn’t seem to photograph well, so you are probably as astonished as I was that this thing was getting the attention of the whole class.

Now I’m worried about next week – will they expect great things from me that I’m unable to deliver?

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4 Responses to “AEDM day 14: painting with sand”

  1. deb says:

    Unsolicited, of course, but I say: who cares what they expect? (and who cares what the instructor thinks too?) … maybe you can just go learn/enjoy/absorb/practice. :)

    (and the painting may look better in person, but it looks pretty fabulous here too. beautiful color and a real sense of intimacy …)

  2. Jul says:

    True, I should be able to get something out of the class independent of what others there think of my work.

    But on the flip side, the more people I can dazzle with my artistic abilities, the more potential customers/sales/connections I can create. Who knows, maybe someone in the class happens to know a gallery owner who would love to show my work. :)

    And thanks. :)

  3. Dia says:

    What fun that picture is!! It makes me want to walk along & see what's in the windows!
    I'm curious about how you used the sand with acrylics? sprinkle it on as you went?? I've remember last year someone came to the art shop around the corner from my office to teach about using the different gel mediums etc. with acrylics, but I didn't get to that presentation. . .

  4. Jul says:

    She just had us mix the sand (and water) into the paint on our palette. We played around with using brushes or palette knives to apply it to the canvas. I wouldn’t recommend trying this with your good brushes… the sand was pretty harsh on them.

    I’ll try to get a more detailed photo of the painting’s surface so I can show you what the sand looks like on it.

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